"Diablo 3" will be introducing a real-money auction house, enabling gamers to buy and sell virtual items using their choice of virtual or real-life funds. ArsTechina reported that Blizzard plans to stick a 15 percent transaction fee on these purchases.
From the start, the idea of an auction house in which players barter with their own money in a centrally controlled medium has sparked controversy. On the "Getting Started" guide on Battle.net, Blizzard details the fees that any player is subject to when selling items. The transaction fee for equipment in the "Gold Auction House," which is the in-game currency room, is 15 percent of the final sale price. For the real-money house, there is a $1 fee per item. For commodities, such as gems, materials, dyes, recipes and pages, the fee is also 15 percent of the final sale price for both in-game and real-life currency.
There is an additional 15 percent fee if users wish to purchase through a third-party service such as PayPal, and Blizzard added that "additional fees may apply." The only loophole to this system is to place funds in a Battle.net balance, as ArcTechina indicates. This money can then be used to purchase digital editions of other Blizzard games and certain in-game items in other titles such as "World of Warcraft."
All real-world money trades max out at $250, and a limit of 10 concurrent items can be listed by a single user. For example, a player wouldn't be allowed to auction an item for $1,000, nor would users be able to list 100 items in the auction house. But there are loopholes to these regulations as well, such as farming with a team and selling four sets of unique items for $250 each, as GamingBlend writes. With a feature that mimicks eBay's buyout ability, players can rack up $1,000 on four unique items, and even after transferring the funds to PayPal and undergoing Blizzard's 15 percent tax rate, the net profit would amount to $850.
But Blizzard will be implementing some policies to keep auctioneers in check. There is a preset amount of uniques that cannot be duplicated, and gamers cannot mod the game in change or increase the existing cache of items to sell for a higher price. The game operates on an MMO network structure, and therefore players can only obtain items serverside.
Another feature enables large quantities of commonly traded commodities to appear in streamlined search lists. This means players can find potions, buffs, and other consumable entities through a "best price versus quality" listing.
This isn't the first time the concept of a real-money auction house has stirred controversy. When South Korea approved the game's release in that country it banned the feature, which Blizzard then removed from that version according to PC Gamer.
"The idea of playing for financial gain conflicted with South Korea's stern anti-gambling ethos, but the problem has now been resolved," wrote Tom Senior of the publication in January.
It seems that eliminating the pay-to-win mindset could become a trend in the gaming industry. The upcoming MMO first-person shooter from CCP Games called "DUST 514" is completely free of charge. Advancement in the game is based on skill sets rather than money or rank, following the model set by "League of Legends."
"We have to be super clear" CMO of CCP David Reid said in April at the Sony Spring Preview. "First person shooters operate on a very skill based model. If people think you can buy your way to the top, it's not going to be successful."
Will the real-money auction house create a pay-to-win energy for "Diablo 3?" It's too soon to tell right now, but players are sure to voice their opinions on the matter when it's launched a week after the game's May 15th release.
"And please, please, please remember, if you see that super rare Sword of the Oblivion for $250 dollars and you don't have the in-game currency to buy it, take a deep breath, calm your fingers and hold the wallet," GamingBlend's William Usher urges.
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